June 5, 2007 in Idaho

Therapist faced scrutiny as priest

Taryn Brodwater Staff writer
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Ladenburger
(Full-size photo)

The conduct of a school therapist and former Catholic priest charged with molesting two teenage boys he counseled was called into question years before his arrest last week in Bonner County.

Louis Ladenburger underwent treatment twice in the 1980s for “inappropriate professional behavior and relationships,” according to the provincial headquarters of the Franciscan Friars in Oakland, Calif.

The Rev. Melvin Jurisich, provincial minister, said none of the allegations made against Ladenburger while he was a priest involved children or teens. Instead, Jurisich said, concerns were raised by an adult female who reportedly reconciled with Ladenburger.

Still, the allegations of misconduct drew the attention of the province’s Independent Response Team, a committee formed by the Franciscans to address allegations of abuse by their members. The committee ordered Ladenburger to undergo psychological review in 1993 . He was told afterward that “his ministry would be severely restricted if not totally removed” and he would be supervised by the Independent Response Team.

“He refused this option and asked for a leave of absence to consider whether he wished to remain in the order and the priesthood,” according to a statement from the Franciscan Friars.

Ladenburger left the priesthood in March 1996.

Jurisich said Ladenburger was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1963 and had a variety of assignments in his 30-year career, including one in Spokane and others in Washington and Oregon.

Dates and precise locations of where Ladenburger served were not immediately available, Jurisich said, noting that much of the information is probably in archives.

Places where Ladenburger served, however, will be notified of the criminal charges against him, he said.

Ladenburger, 70, remained in the Bonner County Jail on Monday. He is charged with three felony counts of sexual battery with a minor while working at Elk Mountain Academy in Clark Fork, Idaho. Ladenburger was hired as a mental health therapist in September.

Investigators allege he molested two boys, ages 16 and 17, earlier this spring. Both attended Elk Mountain, which serves troubled teenage boys. About 23 students attend the school.

School Director Tina Stevens said Ladenburger was licensed as a marriage/family therapist and a chemical dependency therapist. He passed background checks by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare prior to his hiring, Stevens said.

The school fired Ladenburger on May 5 when officials learned of the allegations of sexual abuse.


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